A newsletter for friends of the Global Mission Institute, Luther Seminary
Global Vision - Fall 2013
View more articles in the Fall 2013 issue.
GMI Member Congregation Profile
Casting a vision for the kingdom
While volunteering at a Habitat for Humanity workday, Pastor Deb Birkeland met a fellow volunteer from Kenya whom she recognized had gifts for ministry. Besides contributing his hard work that day, he was curious to learn the details of the organization. "He's motivated to reach out and help, and then he finds out how things work so he can take what he learns back to share with his own family and friends who are struggling to find their way in the community."
Pastor Deb knew that this man's leadership skills and heart for service made him an ideal candidate for Luther Seminary's Agora program, which equips lay people from ethnic-specific and multicultural congregations for mission and ministry. "He has a natural gift for casting a vision. What is ministry but casting a vision for the kingdom?"
Pastor Deb serves at Christ the King Lutheran Church a congregation whose passion for mission has been fueled by the changing demographic of its New Brighton community, creating many opportunities to build new relationships within the growing multicultural population. Christ the King has become a center of activity and resources for the neighborhood. Its annual, free summer block party has grown into a city-wide event that draws more than 1,500 people, filling the church parking lot. The congregation believes that community outreach opportunities like this are a central part of its mission.
Christ the King's situation is not unique; many congregations are seeing their communities change and grow, but it can be a challenge to know the best way to embrace growing diversity and welcome new customs, rituals and languages into a place that's steeped in tradition. Vern Rice, chair of Christ the King's local mission partner team, says, "Pastors keep telling me, 'We have diversity in our neighborhood, but we don't know how to connect with our new neighbors. We've tried to invite them, but if they come at all, they often don't stay.'"
Christ the King has discovered that engaging multicultural lay leaders within the congregation is key to extending its mission further into the community. A member from Liberia is continuing his Agora training this fall. "He invites more people to church than anyone else. He brings 10 to 15 people every Sunday. He started his own mission project to send supplies to Liberia," tells Vern. "Agora gave him a sense of belief and confidence that allowed him to come back to the congregation and get involved. He is like many others, who, through Agora, have come alive in so many ways."
In addition to referring many participants to Agora, the Christ the King Foundation recently awarded a generous grant to the program, demonstrating its support and commitment to this valuable resource. "Agora represents a true heartfelt desire to see the church of tomorrow thrive," says Pastor Deb. "Not just a desire to replace ourselves, but to see the church as a vital, dynamic force."
Through its Christian Leadership Training, the Agora program at Luther Seminary focuses on equipping people from ethnic-specific and multicultural congregations for Christian mission and ministry. A program of Luther's Global Mission Institute, Agora trains participants to assume congregational leadership roles in ministries of education, congregational care and proclamation.
Do you know someone with a passion for multicultural ministry? Visit www.luthersem.edu/agora to learn more. To invest in this dynamic ministry, go to www.luthersem.edu/gmi